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Related Links
Web Link: Aunt Daisy
Biography: George Methven
Oral History: Wash day

Technology: 'Blue Monday'

Washing in the 1890s was an arduous and time-consuming chore. It took great effort to scrub clothes with soap on a wooden scrubbing board, light the copper to boil the clothes in soapy water, lift them out to rinse them in cold water and wring them out ready for drying. Most women dreaded this weekly wash day routine. To many, wash day was known as 'Blue Monday'.

By the time World War Two had arrived, new labour-saving devices had been invented to help reduce the wash day workload. Even so, by 1956 still less than half of Dunedin households owned a washing machine.

early washing toolVarious simple tools were used to agitate the wash. One of these was a washing dolly or dolly peg, which was like a small short stool with a long handle protruding from the middle of the seat. Another similar device was the posser, which was a perforated cone (usually copper) with a long handle. The cone produced a vacuum effect that helped agitate the clothes when thrust up and down in the wash. And of course no laundry would be complete without one or more washboards to help scrub away the dirt. (Otago Settlers Museum Collection)

Methven washing copperAfter the wash was sufficiently soaked, agitated and scrubbed, it was boiled in a 'copper'. A fire was lit beneath the 'copper' to heat the water. The clothes were moved about in the hot water with a stick. This boiler was one of those produced by South Dunedin manufacturers Methvens, whose advertisements advised consumers to 'Methvenise their homes with modern appliances'. (Otago Settlers Museum Collection)

Domestic mangleThe first 'machines' devised to aid washing were wringers and mangles, which would help smooth and dry garments by way of a set of wooden rollers in a cast iron frame that put pressure on the clothes. Domestic mangles began to appear in people's homes by the middle of the 19th century. (Otago Settlers Museum Collection)

The 'Easy washer'The 'Easy washer' comprised a tub with a three-cone agitator and a separate spin drier. The Syracuse Washing Machine Corporation produced this model of Easy washer around 1935. (Otago Settlers Museum Collection)

advertisement for the 1938 'Easy'This advertisement for the 1938 'Easy' shows the separate agitator and powered mangle design which was to become the washing machine standard in New Zealand until the 1970s. Hot water for washing was fed via rubber hoses from a tap in the 'wash-house' then emptied, again by hose, from a tap at the bottom of the wash bowl. Cold water for rinsing clothes entered and left in the same way. Later washing machines had pumps to remove the water from the bowl. (Otago Settlers Museum Collection)

Canadian Beatty brand of washing machineThe Canadian Beatty brand of washing machine was also a popular model found in many homes on 'the Flat'. These washing machines often had a quick release mechanism built into the roller unit that released the pressure if too many items of clothing (or your fingers) were being drawn into the mangle's hard rubber rollers. (Otago Settlers Museum Collection)

Beatty washer Advert'Aunt Daisy' herself is quoted in this Beatty washer newspaper advertisement from the 1950s. Washing machine design changed in the 1970s when engineers developed gear boxes that could turn the agitator into a crude spin-dryer making the mangle redundant. The excess water was removed and drying time on the clothes line was reduced. (Otago Settlers Museum Collection)

'Rinso' washing powder'Rinso' washing powder was a household name in New Zealand until it was 'retired' in 1993. Advertisements for 'Sunlight', 'Rinso' and 'Persil' had, over the years, produced many memorable advertising jingles - usually imprinted in the memory of consumers as they listened to their favourite radio 'serial' sponsored by a large soap powder manufacturer. (Otago Settlers Museum Collection)

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